Transfer Learning with Deep Tabular Models

Dec 2, 2022



Recent work on deep learning for tabular data demonstrates the strong performance of deep tabular models, often bridging the gap between gradient boosted decision trees and neural networks. Accuracy aside, a major advantage of neural models is that they are easily fine-tuned in new domains and learn reusable features. This property is often exploited in computer vision and natural language applications, where transfer learning is indispensable when task-specific training data is scarce. In this work, we explore the benefits that representation learning provides for knowledge transfer in the tabular domain. We conduct experiments in a realistic medical diagnosis test bed with limited amounts of downstream data and find that transfer learning with deep tabular models provides a definitive advantage over gradient boosted decision tree methods. We further compare the supervised and self-supervised pretraining strategies and provide practical advice on transfer learning with tabular models. Finally, we propose a pseudo-feature method for cases where the upstream and downstream feature sets differ, a tabular-specific problem widespread in real-world applications.


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